If you’re familiar with gose, then you may be a beer geek.
The tart, salty, sour, German wheat style is hardly a household name. Nevertheless, Sierra Nevada believes that a shift in the American palate will pave the way for smoother, lighter beers like goses.
The craft-beer giant will soon launch their gose, Otra Vez. While there has been a rise in gose production at microbreweries in the past year, nothing in the style has been released on this scale.
So how will the general beer-drinking public respond?
“This probably won’t take a Bud Light drinker and make him into a craft-beer guy,” said Brian Grossman, son of Sierra Nevada founder Ken Grossman, at an Otra Vez launch event last night at The Pony Bar in Manhattan. “But for that craft-beer drinker in each group of friends, when he tries it, he’ll love it. And then he’ll say, ‘Hey guys, you all gotta try this’.”
I had the chance at The Pony Bar to sample Otra Vez, which is brewed with California-grown grapefruit and cactus.
The nose was salty, sour, and light. On the palate I found well-rounded fruit flavors (grapefruit, cascade-hop citrus), herbalness (coriander), cactus notes, minerality, malts, and an underlying tartness, especially in the dry finish.
Overall, Otra Vez is a light, crisp, refreshing beer. It’s only 5 IBU’s.
“I think that the consumer palate is going away from the kick-you-in-the-teeth flavors, away from ‘hop bombs’,” Grossman said, “and more towards something that you can have a couple of and sit back and still feel good about. We believe this fits with that.”
Although Grossman suggested that Otra Vez, at 4.5% ABV, was “very crushable,” the gose’s strong lactic qualities may keep it from being sessionable. (Otra Vez is a Spanish expression meaning “another time,” a nod to its session potential.)
Add in the gose flavor profile — especially the saltiness, which is admittedly light here — and beers of this style may be better enjoyed as a single drink during a night of trying several different brews. Which should suit the adventurous craft-beer drinker just fine.
The lactic aspect was also a reason for Otra Vez’s two-year development period.
Sierra Nevada brewed more than 100 test batches. They experimented at length with different yeast/bacterial strains, Grossman and his father recalled. Although companies can buy industrial lactic on the market, Sierra Nevada produced its own bacteria, in a basement removed from the main distillery, so as not to infect other materials.
“I don’t want to say that it was the most complicated beer we’ve ever done, but it was the most complicated beer we’ve ever done,” Grossman laughed.
Otra Vez’s acidity will cut through the fat of heavier foods, like the pork dish served by The Pony Bar. The acidity should also appeal to mixologists who make beer cocktails.
Whether the gose appeals to a wide range of craft drinkers is to be determined. It may be a matter of consumer education. After all, as Ken explained, Sierra Nevada put “Gose Style” on the label, rather than just “Gose,” so that drinkers would understand that gose was the beer’s style — and not its name.
Sierra Nevada also gave guests a sneak peak at their spring seasonal beer, Tropical IPA. The beer exhibited a strong, piney, tropical-fruit hoppiness, a flavor profile that’s very popular at current moment.
If Otra Vez represents where the American palate is heading, then Tropical IPA represents where it still is.
We were served a test batch of Tropical IPA. Bottling begins next week, with release around spring.
Otra Vez will be available nationwide starting Jan. 1, in both cans and bottles in six-packs.
Kyle Swartz is the associate editor of Beverage Dynamics Magazine. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org